Sandy Dunn and John Brissette
| Telegram & Gazette
A recap of the incredible concert success of the Centrum (now the DCU Center), particularly in the early years after it opened, with 700 plus concerts to date and millions of visitors to downtown Worcester is something for the entire community to boast about.
But this is just a small part of the story. The prolific ability for Worcester and the venue to draw the attention of artists and concert attendees during the “perfect storm” in the 1980s, as quoted from Richard Krezwick in a recent Sunday Telegram article, resulted in incredible brand recognition for the venue as well as introducing the city of Worcester to a huge New England population and well beyond, who had never visited in the past.
But looking at the venue’s success through the narrow lens of concerts is a certain miss and doesn’t recognize its true glory. Like many industries that change and evolve, the 1980s’ perfect storm passed and the music industry began to dramatically change.
Gone are the Strawberry record stores, the rock rivalry of WBCN (off air) and WAAF (now a Christian station), along with cheap tickets and t-shirts. Since the early years, five large new venues have been added in the immediate market plus Mohegan Sun, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium are part of the mix.
The amphitheater circuit looms large for outdoor shows and is often preferred by many artists. As the changes began, ASM Global (then SMG), the private management company for the facility had the foresight and ability
In addition, the City of Worcester through the Civic Center Commission had the fortitude to expand the complex opening the convention center in 1997, 25 years ago. Adapting to new audiences, changes in the competitive environment and expanding the positive impact to the community, including 650-plus employees, have all led to the current success.
The parcels surrounding the facility finally began to show development with the first completion in 1995 being St. Vincent Hospital. The Hilton Garden, the new courthouse, Mercantile Center, the MTB garage and the reimagined Galleria in the years to follow have positively changed the downtown landscape.
The Convention Center added to overnight stays and feet on the surrounding streets not seen before with just an arena. The addition of a hockey team 20 years ago demonstrated the value of year-round community initiatives with youth groups, hospitals, charities, and more.
Both the Worcester Railers and the Massachusetts Pirates are committed to these activities in the greater region raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and the spirits of central Massachusetts while also building Worcester’s name throughout North America.
The DCU Center is proud of its heritage and its current diverse array of live entertainment today including concerts! Posting an operating profit in 38 of the last 40 years with the only two years requiring a subsidy being amidst a nationwide pandemic that shuttered the live event industry.
Even during this time, the DCU Center stood up as a critical community asset when it served as a field hospital during a time of need.
Are the DCU Center (Centrum) glory days long gone? Certainly not.
John Brissette is chairman of the Worcester Civic Center Commission. Sandy Dunn is general manager, ASM Global, DCU Center.